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Re: non-free firmware

On Wed, Jan 11, 2006 at 03:06:32PM -0600, Bill Allombert wrote:

> > I have argued previously (on debian-legal and elsewhere) that for some types
> > of works, such as icons, fonts, and documentation, "source code" is not
> > important to the modifiability of a work in the same way that it is to
> > programs.  There are many cases in which the original source form used by
> > the author is *not* the preferred form of modification for the creation of
> > new derivative works, and it seems to me that the DFSG silently acknowledges
> > this reality by speaking about "programs" (not the ambiguous "software")
> > directly in DFSG #2.  But of all the forms of software that we distribute
> > which aren't normally considered "programs", firmware is certainly the most
> > program-like.

> > I believe the problem currently before us is, therefore, to decide whether
> > we as a project consider firmware to be "programs" for the purposes of DFSG
> > compliance.  I am disposed to accept that they are not, but I'm not
> > comfortable making this decision on behalf of the project ex cathedra as an
> > RM.  Instead, my plan had been to, over the next month or two, review the
> > past discussions of this point, talk the issue over with various folks, and
> > propose a GR that would clarify this interpretation of the DFSG where
> > firmware is concerned.  If the "discussion" part is starting now, so much
> > the better.

> As far as firmware are concerned, firmware licenses tend to be
> restrictive in various way, but usually they at least do not allow 
> to distribute modified version. At least this was the case when I
> investigated the Linux 2.4.25 kernel [1], so unless things have changed,
> the proposed GR will have no effect on most firmwares. The actual
> licensing terms of the 'relevant' 2.6 firmware need be investigated.

Sure; I'm not comfortable with the idea of granting (open-ended) license
exceptions of this kind, so given that we know at least some firmware is
made available under restrictive licenses I think we need to be working on
appropriate infrastructure for supporting them, regardless of possible GRs.

Steve Langasek                   Give me a lever long enough and a Free OS
Debian Developer                   to set it on, and I can move the world.
vorlon@debian.org                                   http://www.debian.org/

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